Friday, 4 September 2015

A Letter to My Childhood Self

I read this prompt on the Compassion blog and decided to have some fun with it!

Dear Little Hannah,

It's me. No, not that, ya goose. Me. Your older, wiser, more experienced self. Have I got a few words of wisdom for you! No, you're not crazy. Just be quiet and listen, 'kay?

Number 1. Adulting is hard, girl! There's so much stuff that you haven't even thought about! Bills to pay! Cars breaking down! Forms to fill out! And more forms!! And more forms!!!

Not to mention, catching that centipede that you discover in your sink at four in the morning all by yourself.

All I can say is, experiment. No one's gotta know about that batch of cookies you had to dump because you burned them beyond recognition... or the entire container of food that you forgot in the back of the fridge and had to throw away container and all because it grew *GASP* pink mold and everyone knows that PINK MOLD CAN KILL YOU... or the time you dropped an entire pie on the floor... or the time you caught the microwave on fire. (Gosh, kiddo, you sure didn't inherit your mom's cooking genes did ya?)

Just chill, take it easy... it's called growing up. Every adult does stuff like this. I think.

Number 2. Adulting is amazing. That's the part that people don't tell you about. When you go out and purchase a piece of furniture that compliments your decor perfectly... when you dress up and treat yourself to dinner to celebrate life... when you just get in your car and drive and drive with no destination in mind, just because you can... when you host your first party. Being an adult is the toughest thing you'll ever do, but also the most rewarding.

Number 3. You know that African girl you've been wanting to sponsor? The one you dream about every time you see a World Vision commercial on TV? The one whose picture you cut out of a magazine and taped to the fridge? The one you dream about writing letters to?

You're going to have four of them. Yup. Four. And two boys besides. (One in Indonesia.) And it will Change. Your. Life. And it will cause your heart to break in ways you never dreamed of and it will put all the pieces of your life back together again and your friends will call you a single mom and you'll brag about "your kids" to random strangers and it will be the best thing that ever happens in your life. I promise. 

Number 4. Okay, I hate to tell you this part. You're gonna get hurt, babygirl. Adults don't know how to play nice. Be careful who you give your heart away to, all right? Even the sweetest people in the world can let you down and hurt you in ways that no one should have to experience. You're going to learn what depression means. You're going to learn what betrayal means. You're going to learn what sleepless nights feel like, and what crying until you throw up feels like, and what rage feels like.

But you'll make it. (If you didn't, I wouldn't be here writing this letter to you would I?)

You'll make it, you know why? Because you're going to learn that it's not about who you are, it's about Whose you are. Because you'll learn to see everything beautiful in the storm. Because your worth will come from One Who loves you. Because one day, you'll learn to smile and walk away with your heart intact. You may not think that you're going to make it, but you will. Because one day, you'll learn to remove negative people, thoughts, and influences from your life without a second thought.

Number 5. You are who you are. Don't let anybody, and I mean anybody, change that. Be crazy. Be weird. Be awkward. Stick out like a sore thumb. Be the one running around catching snowflakes on your tongue while people look at you like you've lost your mind. Be the one giggling so hard that everyone turns to look. Be you, crazy girl. Don't be anybody else.

Number 6. Remember how you always dreamed of being a singer? You're gonna do it chickie! You're gonna sing on stages and have people cry and come up afterwards to hug you. And what's more, you're going to meet the best friends that you've ever had who are gonna sit back and accept you for who you are. You're going to laugh until you snort and you're going to go on crazy adventures and you're going to sing in parking lots and restaurants and malls, and you're going to go into a recording studio and get a fit of anxious laughter because you can't believe you're making a CD for crying out loud and isn't that unbelievable?!

Number 7. You're gonna grow up, Hannah-Strawberry-Banana-Spitfire-Torment. And it's going to be painfully funny and beautifully impossible. And you're going to laugh and cry and groan and giggle and scream and sigh. And it's going to be fun. And it's going to be tough. And you're gonna do it. And you're not gonna give up, because like I said, if you did, I wouldn't be writing you this letter. And you're gonna come out on top; maybe a little battered, maybe a little broken, but still beautiful, okay?

Because you're not brave enough to be mediocre. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

August Anamneses

Three letters to share this month!! I just adore getting letters from my kids!

First up was a letter from my dearest brother Mbula. I love what a fantastic relationship I have with this young man.

He began his letter, as he does almost every time, with "Hallo my sister!" He told me that he was glad to hear about my parents' recent visit, and that I "took time talking with them." He sent them his greetings and told them that God loves them. He also shared that he was glad to hear that I really appreciated the photos of him with the gift bag I was able to send him through a visiting sponsor! (I had told him that I was so happy to see a picture of him smiling that it made me cry. ) He says that he keeps on "praying to Almighty to encourage you to keep sending these gifts." Mbula shared that he's happy to hear that I'm praying for him and his family, and on their side, they're "keenly" praying for me too!

I recently sent Mbula a letter about my most recent correspondence child, Miriam, since she's also in Kenya. I told him that he had a little Compassion sister and that I was so blessed to be able to write to her. He wrote back and said, "I am grateful to have a small sister in Compassion, since I only have an older biological sister. I am really blessed. When you write to her send my regards to her."
He also shared how he is doing in school and encouraged me to keep praying for him. Lastly, he closed with Isaiah 41:10, which says "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God."

Next up is a letter from my beautiful Ada!

She is always so sweet and grateful in her letters. She says, "Thank you for taking care of me in my daily life. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers." She also shared that she is in grade five and is preparing for end of term exams. Then she thanked me for the letter I sent to her and said that it pleased her and she was glad to hear from me. Then she thanked me a couple more times!

Lastly, I got my first "real" letter from Papi! His first letter was just a very basic intro, so this one was exciting... it was two pages long!

He greeted me with "shalom." and said that he was happy to receive my letters and photos. He then thanked me for my willingness to sponsor him. He shared a bit about his family and told me that his mother works as a domestic worker. (I guess that's like a maid or house servant?) He told me about the university he goes to and said that he is studying building techniques and said, "Each morning I must struggle to ride on the campus bus because public transportation to campus is not many. It is one of our town cultures." Then he shared his hobbies with me, which are watching animated movies, walking around, and hanging out with friends.

Papi then shared that this month he is hoping to go to Poe Town, which is a community about 175 km away from where he lives. They will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Holy Spirit pouring down. (Google "Indonesian revival 1965" like I did... it's very interesting and I'm so glad he is interested in that sort of thing!)

He then asked, "May I call you Sister?" (Awwww!) When is your birthday? What do you do? How is the culture there?"

He also asked for prayers for his studies, that he'll be able to finish "in the right time." And he drew this illustration of Psalm 91:11 for me!

What letters have you gotten this month?  

Friday, 31 July 2015

July Joys

Well, I thought I wasn’t going to get any letters at all this month, since I heard from all of my Compassion kids last month, but I was very blessed to find a letter from my little Miriam in my post office box today! I’m glad to have at least one letter to blog about!

My little munchkin sent me another cute coloring job and a little drawing. She’s my first Compassion child to draw for me and I think it’s SO precious! It looks like letters are going to be coming from her project quite regularly, and the project staff are making sure that she responds to my letters and questions!

Here’s her letter, which was written on the “My Family” template:

My siblings from oldest to youngest are Mary. In my family I spend the most time with my mother. Extended family that lives with me are grandparents and aunt. My family lives in the rural area. My food is prepared by my mother. My favorite thing to do with my family is dining together. (How cute!) My favorite way to help my family is sweeping the compound. My family’s faith background is Christian. My family’s health and special needs are education.

Miriam expresses her sincere love to you. She hopes you are okay back in US. (Oops, better write her a letter about Canada!) She says back in Kenya she is doing well with her family. She thanks you for the lovely letter you send her. She was happy to know about your parents and what they do. She asks you to pass her love to them. Miriam says that she also likes singing. She says that she lives with her parents and her sister Mary. She thanks you for the picture of your parents. She says she enjoys going for a trip with her family. Miriam wishes you all the best in what you do.

Isn’t she a little doll? Here’s her lovely drawing and coloring… just my favorite shade of blue! 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

How To Live On Your Own (And Survive)

Since I’ve been living on my own for over a year now, I figure I am the perfect person to give you some tips on how to make the moving-out process a lot easier and less painful. Trust me, I have the experience. Getting ready to live on your own? Headed to college or university? Apartment shopping? This one’s for you!


DO: PAY YOUR BILLS. I cannot stress how important this is. Use a calendar or an app (I use Google calendars) to keep track of when you last paid your bills. Companies are notorious for neglecting to send you bills (and they can also get lost in the mail) so don’t count on them to notify you when you owe money. Even if they send you an e-notification, that can get screwed up too. (I’ve had them mess up my email address before.) Nobody wants their phone/internet service cut off without warning, so keep track of it all! (Hint: ignoring it won’t make it go away, it will only get worse.)

DO: Build good credit. This is the thing that will allow you to get a mortgage (or a car) later on down the road. For example: You need to spend $100 on a vacuum cleaner. Put it on your Visa, and then call the bank (or go there, whatever) and pay it off the next day. Even making small purchases and paying them off promptly shows your credit company that you are trustworthy and that you are responsible enough to handle a big loan.

DON’T: Go in debt. My motto is, “Owe no man nothing.” If you can’t afford it, a good tip is, don’t buy it! I spent a full year with no couch for that reason. I didn’t NEED a couch, so I waited till I could find a cheap used one instead of going in debt for something that really isn’t a necessity.

DO: Pay off debts promptly. Sooner or later, you will have a debt. Whether you decide to buy a car, fix your car if something goes wrong, get a mortgage on a house, or you just need to purchase something big like a washing machine, you will eventually go in debt. Pay it off FAST. If you make only the minimum required payment, you will live with it hanging over your head. Plus the interest will kill you and you’ll end up paying like twice as much as you were originally going to. If you have a $200 debt and the minimum required payment is $18 a month, don’t be afraid to pay $50 or even $100 at a time if you can afford it. The faster you can get rid of that debt, even if you have to pinch pennies, means the less you have to worry about.

DO: Have a backup plan. Always have money in your bank account. One thing I wish I would have known when I first moved out, is that unexpected expenses will crop up everywhere. It’s Murphy’s Law… if something can go wrong, it will. Just when you think you’re getting ahead in life, you’ll either have a flat tire or something will break or go missing or whatever. This is where GOOD credit comes in handy… it’s saved my hide when I had emergency car repairs and a bill that I didn’t know about until it reached $400.

DO: Save money where you can. I am the ultimate Scrooge… I hate spending money on ANYTHING. But being a Scrooge means I’m not constantly broke, which is good. And it means that when you do splurge on a fast-food meal or a new nail polish or that pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing, you’ll feel good about yourself because you know that you don’t have to feel guilty for treating yourself once in a while.


DON’T: Expect your pad to look like something out of Sears catalogue right away. Do expect to sleep on an air mattress and eat off paper plates for a while… all things happen in good time. Just be patient.

DON’T: Buy all new stuff. Go for gently used every time. You can get stuff that’s practically new for a quarter of the price. Coffee table, kitchen table and chairs, bedside stands… go for used.

DO: Buy from people you trust. I’m touchy about couches and mattresses… anything that I’m going to put my face on and that I can’t immerse in soapy water, I want to be clean. These are the two items that I’d recommend buying new if you can afford it… if not, buy from a relative or family friend. At least you’ll know where it came from.

DO: Look for an apartment without carpets, for the same reasons as listed above. Floating floor or hardwood or tile can be cleaned so much more easily, and it doesn’t collect dirt and dampness and bugs and end up stinking like carpets do. Buy area rugs if you want soft flooring.


So you’re ready to move in and spend the first night in your new apartment on your own. First, you’ll want to do some shopping. Pick up toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels, hand soap, dish soap, and sponges. Also, if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, pick up a mop and mop bucket, broom and dustpan. You want to be able to unpack your stuff without worrying… especially if the apartment wasn’t cleaned before you moved in.

Make sure you buy a shower curtain and a toilet plunger. These are essentials.

Bath towels, facecloths, dish cloths, and dish towels are also a must. And you’ll want to grab a laundry basket, or designate a bag for this purpose. Also buy laundry detergent. And dryer sheets.
If you don’t have blinds and you haven’t had time to buy curtains (or make them, if you’re inclined thataway) a sheet or towel and a few thumbtacks works wonders.

Make sure you have Drano or Liquid Plumber on hand… clogged sinks are nasty.

I’m going to assume you have a fridge and stove, since most apartments have them, so let’s jump right into what you should stock your kitchen with. You can use plastic utensils until you get a set of dishes, and buy paper (not Styrofoam) cups and plates. Styrofoam will melt in the microwave, and you don’t want that, do you?

Unless you’re a big eater, assume that a lot of stuff will spoil when you’re the only person eating. I buy a lot of canned fruit, because it’s healthy and keeps forever in the cupboard. I also buy individual-sized, ready-made salads instead of buying all the separate ingredients. (Unless you want to eat salad three times a day; in that case, go to town.)

Regardless of what you think of canned food, keep at least a few canned soups, stews, tuna or chicken or ham flakes, noodle soup cups, instant oatmeal packets, and Kraft dinner cups in the cupboards for those times that you’re too tired/sick/broke/lazy to cook. Microwave dinners aren’t all that healthy and they’re packed with salt, but they’re better than starving. Do make an effort to eat healthy though!

Keep wieners and hot dog buns, hamburger patties and hamburger buns, chicken fingers/nuggets, pierogis, English muffins and pepperoni (for mini pizzas) and maybe chicken wings or the like, in your freezer. They make great emergency meals.

For starters, you’ll want to stock your fridge with drinks and some condiments. Great starters are ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise (if you like it on sandwiches or burgers), plum sauce (if you like it on chicken fingers), soya sauce (this is good on rice), etc. This will vary according to taste, of course.

Also make sure you have salt and pepper on hand.

I buy butter in sticks (4 to a box) because I find it spoils too quickly otherwise. Store your butter in the freeze and just thaw a stick or however much you need for a week. You can buy a block of butter and cut it up and separate it into containers, but why go through all that trouble?

Other fridge staples for me are cheese, eggs, and milk.

Cupboard staples may include bread, cereal, rice, crackers, and sandwich spreads like peanut butter, honey, molasses, or whatever you prefer.

NOTE that the above lists will vary according to taste and preference; this is just to give you some ideas of what you may not want to be without.

Try to have at least a toaster and kettle on hand. Get a microwave as soon as you can. And please, PLEASE buy a slow cooker. It will change your life. Seriously.

For dirty dishes: If you have a dishwasher, give yourself a high five, a pat on the back, do a dance, get down on your knees, say an Our Father, whatever. You just got lucky.

If you have a double sink: do all of the above. You’re still lucky.

If you have a single sink, buy a dish drying rack and drying mat. You can either run hot water over your soapy dishes to rinse them (although this will fill up your sink quickly) or you can buy a dish pan and fill it with clean hot water to rinse your dishes. Speaking of dishes, make sure that any dirty dishes containing cheese, egg, or oatmeal, are put in the sink to soak, or else they will dry like cement. I kid you not, these are the worst three food items to clean.

Also, NEVER put anything metal, like forks or knives, in the microwave. Just in case you didn’t know ;) And also, never use steel wool or any kind of harsh scrubber on a non-stick pan. Also in case you didn’t know. ;)

Just a tip, I use rubber gloves to wash dishes. Why dry out your skin, ruin your manicure, and touch icky bits of food when you don’t have to?

By all means, this isn’t a complete list, but I think it covers some of the more important areas!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

June Joys

June was a CRAZY letter month for me… I heard from five of my six kids! (Which means that July is going to be very boring letter-wise, unless I get an unexpected surprise or two!)

First up was a letter from my dear brother Mbula in Kenya! 

He greets me with “Hi! my sister.” (I love it when he calls me sister, which happens in every letter. I feel so close to this guy you wouldn’t believe.)

Mbula received the soccer card, world map, and other items I sent for his birthday and “greatly appreciated” them. He says he’s doing well with his studies and is getting good scores. He hopes I am praying for him to do well. He then shared, “I also wish to give thanks from my relatives who have really appreciated your support very much. I hope that you will appreciate them.” Mbula also said they are doing well in church, and he hopes I will keep on praying for them as they continue serving the Lord. He is also praying for me as I continue my activities.

Next up was my first letter from Papi in Indonesia! Papi also celebrated his 20th birthday this month!

It was written before I sponsored him, so it wasn’t really personal, but I did learn some interesting information about him. He lives with his mother since his father is deceased, and he has two older siblings. (I wasn’t sure from the names whether boys or girls.) His favorite food is fried rice, his favorite color is green, his favorite Bible story is Daniel, his hobby is reading, he lives in a city (My first urban child! Yay!), and he seems to have several best friends! He thanked me for sponsoring him and said he prays for God to be with me in everything. He also asks for prayer for his studies, family and friends.

My third letter was from my “chatterbox” Ada in Rwanda! She always has something interesting to say in her letters.

She begins her letter with “Your child Basomingera Ada, I am greeting you and I wish you peace of Jesus Christ.” She thanks me for being a good parent and says, “I was happy for the good things you always do to me.” (heart melt!) Then she adds, “I believe to have a better future.” (THIS is why I sponsor!) She shared her school grades with me and said she had a happy Easter with friends and family. They had food and drinks. She then tells me she likes to study mathematics (good girl!) and she is happy to receive my letters supporting her life. She thanked me for sharing Philippians 1:3-4 with her and said, “We pray for you to be blessed and to drive well the lorry.” (A reference to a truck-driving job I told her I was hoping to get.)

Just two days later, I got a very special letter; my first from my cute 3-year-old Miriam in Kenya! It was written by a project worker on the “My School” template.

I’ll just share the whole letter with you, since it’s pretty adorable! “I am in nursery school. My school is one kilometer from my house. The name of my school is E------ Primary school. I go to school by foot. The color of my school uniform is green and yellow. My teachers name is Miss Ndumu. My best friend in school is Matheka K------. The games we play in school are netball and volleyball. The other activities in school this term are ball games. What I like best about my school is playing football. My favorite subject in school is numberwork. After school I like to take care of baby.

Miriam salutes you with love. She was happy to meet you and hear from you. Miriam says you are a special friend in her family. She says she likes rice and beef as her favorite food. She has not seen ocean and has not eaten fish any day. Miriam informs you that her favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 3:5. She says it is not so much windy in Kenya and especially where she lives. She thanks you for encouraging her through Psalms 145:9, 'God is good always.' She wishes you a wonderful Easter and blessings."

She also colored me this adorable picture:

And drew me these pencil scribbles!

My last letter of the month was from Isimbi in Rwanda.

Isimbi began her letter by greeting me in the Name of Jesus and asking me if I’m doing well. Her mother, grandmother, and brother are doing well “and they love you.” She told me how her studies are going and what position she got in school, and asked, “Are you getting rain over there in your country?” She then asked me to continue praying for her to pass well.

It’s unusual for me to hear from all of my Compassion kids in one month! Have any of you ever had that happen?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A Day with My Heavenly Daddy

What would the ideal day with your Heavenly Father look like?

As soon as I read this month’s Compassion Bloggers prompt, I started to chuckle. I’ve spend some interesting days in the presence of God, but there’s one memory in particular that takes the cake… or perhaps I should say, the cheese!

Let me explain:

A few years ago, I spent three weeks as a live-in house/pet/plant-sitter for neighbors who were gone on vacation. One night, I was heading to bed after an evening of movies, when I decided to stop in the kitchen for a snack. As I nosed around the kitchen, I was having a conversation with the Lord about certain things. It was late, I was tired, and as a result, our conversation waxed sillier and sillier. Our topic was, interestingly enough, the same as listed above: what I would do if God came down to earth to spend a day. I maintained that I would love to hear Him play the old upright piano in the corner, as of course, He is the Master Musician!

I was eating a packet of string cheese when, for no reason I could think of other than I was over-tired, I held the package towards the ceiling and offered, “Want a bite?”

That second, I got a mental image of the Lord pretending to chomp a bite, rather like a parent who pretends to gobble up a bite of food in order to encourage their small child to eat. Something along the lines of, “Nom nom nom!!!”

That did it… I was gone, laughing so hard it’s a wonder the neighbors didn’t hear me. I’m sure a few would have thought me to be irreverent, but I’ve always maintained that the Lord was a Man and spent 30 years working as a Carpenter, and I’m sure He didn’t spend all that time floating along on a cloud with a halo.

Back to the writing prompt… I’ve spent a lot of time imagining what a day with the Lord would look like. There’s one thing in particular that’s very close to my heart, that I’ll share with you today.

When I was younger, my family and I watched an Easter play on television. The actor playing Christ had the longest, thickest, smoothest, silkiest reddish-gold hair that I’d ever seen (on a man, anyways!) Being a girl with very long, thick red hair myself, I imagined that if Jesus did have hair like that, and if He ever paid a visit to my room, I would request the honor of brushing his hair.

There’s something special about doing one’s hair, or having one’s hair done. I remember one of my aunts playing with and plaiting my hair; it’s something that you only allow someone who’s very close to you to do.  It’s a very simple and yet intimate gesture.

I’ve always had a deep respect for daddies who take the time to learn to comb and style their daughter's hair (or son’s, as the case may be). Being as God is the Ultimate Daddy, I had/have a perfect and complete confidence that He could easily brush my hair without hitting any knots or snarls.

Let Mary Magdalene pour out her precious ointment… my perfect day would consist of my Father and I, brushing each other’s hair.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

May Memories

Okay, so this post is late… way late. However, here it is… finally!
I received just one letter in the month of May, from my precious Isimbi in Rwanda.

She sent her warm greetings to me in Jesus’ Name and asked how I was doing. Her family is all doing fine, and she hopes that we’re all well too. She’s in the middle of end of term one exams, and she says, “I hope to pass them well because I read hard, and I know that you always pray for me.”

She then wishes me the best, and said, “Happy Easter.” She also thanked me for my letters and said she was so happy to hear from me, adding, “The letter was so encouraging.” She then thanked me and ended by saying, “May God bless you!”

I’m so glad that she finds my letters encouraging; that’s the whole reason I write to my kiddos! 

Isimbi will be turning 12 in August, and I can’t believe how fast time flies!

On another note, I have letters on the way from Miriam (first letter), Ada, Papi (first letter), and Isimbi (again)! So June should be a good month for letters… if they ever get here! (Not impatient at all, haha)

What letters have you received lately?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

At Every Beck and Call

Tumbling down the stairs in slow motion… sliding, falling, knees and elbows banging painfully off the bannister. Coming to a jumbled stop at the bottom of the stairs, I lift my head and howl, “Mommyyyy!”

Running for the bathroom in the middle of the night, kicking my feet free from entangling sheets, staggering in the darkness to hunch over the porcelain bowl, and I whimper, “Mommm!!”

Staring at a confusing mess of math problems rampaging across the pages of my math book, I hurl down my pencil and yell, “Mo-om?”

Headfirst in my closet, digging, rummaging, searching, clothing dangling off hangers and lying in piles. “Mom!”

Rushing home from the post office, waving a letter from one of my sponsored children, and I holler, “Mom! Mom!! Mom!!!”

Even now, fumbling through my recipe book, looking for non-existent instructions, I pick up the phone and punch in her number. “Mom?”

I’m sure there were plenty of times she got tired of running at my beck and call… but nevertheless, she was always there. Is always there. We who have moms take it for granted sometimes, that our moms are always just around the corner or a phone call away, to act as nurse, doctor, teacher, cook, taxi, and playmate… but let’s not forget the sacrifices that they make, to be all those things to us. The times when they want time to themselves, the times when they are tired, sick, hungry, or just frazzled, yet they still put us first.

Moms of the world, we salute you!

And to my own sweet special mother, a million thanks!!

Did you know you can help a Mom and baby in need? Click HERE to support a Child Survival Program through Compassion International!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

April Anamneses

That’s a pretty cool word isn’t it? Anamneses ? It means, “Recollections or remembrances of the past.” I love playing with words…

Anyways, on to this months’ letters! I got three letters, all from Mbula! Two were actually duplicates of a thank you letter he wrote; one was the rough copy, with words crossed out and spelling errors fixed, and the other was the actual thank-you letter. Both letters included the same two photographs, but the rough copy contained much bigger and better quality photos, so I was pleased with that!

I’ve already posted about Mbula’s thank you letter, but I’ll share one of the photos again here for anyone who hasn’t seen it… this is the first time I’ve ever seen my boy smile!

Anyways, the third letter I received from him started with a sweet greeting, “Let me take this golden chance to say “hi” to you.” (Eloquent!) He then greeted me and told me how he is doing, as well as adding, “I greatly appreciate the pictures you always send me.”

We’d been having a discussion about gardening, with me asking what types of crops his family grows, and telling him about my mother growing carrots in her garden. He responded by telling me they grow maize and beans, but do not actually grow carrots because of the “climatic conditions that are facing our land.” He added that they usually buy carrots “for human consumption”.

Mbula’s studies are going well, and he told me how he thanks both the Lord and me for providing for him. He requests continuing prayers for his studies, and said that he hopes the Lord blesses me, protects me, and “expands my territories!” (I may have to write a letter about the Prayer of Jabez soon!)

Have you received any exciting letters from your kids this month?

Friday, 17 April 2015

...And Then There Were Six.

I spend a lot of time on Compassion International's website, looking at all the beautiful children available for sponsorship. Every so often, I’ll see one that particularly touches my heart, and then I will often post their picture and story on my Facebook page, to help them find a sponsor.

Several weeks ago, a young man from Indonesia really jumped out at me. A very intelligent-looking young man with dark, compelling eyes. I clicked on his profile and discovered that he was an above-average college student, and my heart went out to him. It’s not too often that I see college students on the site, and even more unusual to see one with above-average marks. My first thought was, “Now here’s a young man who is working hard to lift himself out of poverty and he’s not letting it hold him back!”

I immediately started posting his picture around, waiting for him to disappear off the site, which would mean he’d found a sponsor. After weeks of waiting, he finally did disappear, and I celebrated… he’d finally been chosen!

Unfortunately, (or fortunately for me!) that wasn’t the case. A couple weeks later, he reappeared on the site… somebody must have requested his packet and then changed their minds. I couldn’t believe it… I was so sure that he would be snatched up quickly!

So I started posting his picture around again… and grew heartbroken as time went by and he remained on the site. Finally, I started battling with myself. Is there any way possible that I can afford to add a sixth child? Followed by my common sense telling me, NO. This is NOT a smart move. I grew more and more frustrated, realized that even if he WAS chosen by a sponsor, I would still be heartbroken, because I wanted to choose him.

And then my parents stepped in and decided to make it possible. They have a wonderful child of their own, and constantly encourage me in my endeavors to encourage as many children as I can. So, they decided to make it possible for me to encourage, and be encouraged by, one more child.

So now I know why nobody was choosing this young man… because he was meant to join my family.

So without further ado, may I introduce Papi, my sixth child (and my second boy, and my first from outside Africa!) He is 19 years old and lives with his mother. His hobbies are art and singing! (Like me!)

Papi also got his picture updated the DAY after I sponsored him, which is pretty cool! Here’s his newest picture:

Welcome to the family Papi… my “Mr. Miracle”! You were most certainly destined to be here! 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Mbula Says Thank You

I received a very special (thick!) envelope in the mail today! I usually wait till the end of the month to share letters from my kids, but this was too special not to share today!

Last August, a Compassion sponsor traveled to Kenya to pay a visit to his children there. He offered to take some gifts from a few Compassion sponsors for their children, and I jumped at the opportunity to send something to Mbula!!

I was allowed to fill a gallon baggie, which was quite a treat as I’d only sent quart-sized baggies to children before. I immediately started hunting for something that I thought my then-19-year-old would enjoy! I started with a green polo shirt, thinking it would be something useful. I added a watch, since I’d heard reports of children really enjoying watches as gifts. Then I chose a red journal with Jeremiah 29:11 embossed on the front. I figured that since his parents are farmers and Mbula often mentions helping with the crops, a good pair of leather gardening gloves wouldn’t go amiss. Then, I slipped in a bookmark and a souvenir keychain with “Canada” written on it, as well as a pack of toothbrushes.

Then I put the package in the mail, bound for the U.S… and waited… and waited!

I did end up having to do an inquiry, since months passed with not a word about the package. How thrilled I was when I heard that Mbula had received his package, and there was a thank-you letter on the way!

I’ve never enjoyed waiting for anything, but I have to say, my long wait was SO worth it. Because when I tore open the Compassion envelope that I received today, this is the first thing that jumped out at me:

My handsome boy, who at one point I was referring to as “Mr. Serious” since he hasn’t smiled in any of the 8 official photos I have of him, is smiling!! What a sweet, happy smile.

He also wrote me a lovely letter and shared with me what he has done with his gifts. He said that he likes to wear his new polo shirt to church, and he also brings his “diary” to church so he can write down his favorite Scripture verses. He also wears his wrist watch (he calls it a “hand watch”) to school each day! And my favorite part; he shared the toothbrushes among his brothers and sister! I had to chuckle, though, when he thanked me for the “soccer gloves”… oh well, if he can use them during his games (he’s an attacking mid-fielder) he’s welcome to them haha! He also included Psalm 37:4 in his letter… “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!”

There were two photos included in the letter, and I love the second one as well. My boy looks so cool and “rad”!

God bless you my sweet brother! Happy tears here today! 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Memories

I received a couple of awesome letters this month!

First up, a letter from 11-year-old Isimbi in Rwanda. She referred to a letter I sent a while back on the subject about names. She’s my third kid to mention it… apparently it was a really popular letter!

She says, “I firstly greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are you doing well? I believe that you are doing fine and the family. We are in holidays and planting sorghum and beans. I do home activities at home. I love you so much and your family and I pray for you to have a good healthy. I thank you for the letter you gave to me and Bible verses. They inspired me so much. I am happy because God knows my name. Thank you!”

Then I got a very exciting letter from 16-year-old Shakira, also in Rwanda! I don’t hear from her very often, so it was a real treat! It was the second letter she’s ever written in English, and she did so well with it!!

She asked several questions about how I am, how my family is, how I feel, how my life is, how I celebrated Christmas and New Years’, etc. Then she said her and her family are “cool,” which made me chuckle a bit. I had to wonder where she picked up that expression! Then she added, “I thank God because I have a beautiful sponsor, thank you for choosing me.” She then shared the results of her National Exam with me, which was awesome! She was really hoping to get promoted to the next level, and she made it! She told me that her purpose in going to school is to study hard. She also told me that she celebrated her birthday on January 19. (I shared pictures in an earlier blog post.)  Then she shared some song lyrics with me, which was pretty neat! I shared a song with her in my reply letter.

I also have a letter on the way from Mbula, and I was hoping it would arrive in time to be included in this blog post, but oh well! Next post!

Have you heard from your kids lately? 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Music Monday: No Doubt

Since my last blog post was about John Schlitt, the lead singer for Petra, I figured I'd share a Petra song today! This song is called No Doubt, and it is one of the most encouraging songs I've ever heard. I've gone through a lot of dark times, and this song literally was a lifeline to catch hold of in those times. Please share this song with someone who's down or discouraged this week... it may make a difference!

Monday, 2 March 2015

When John Schlitt Came to Town

It was late September, one of those brisk fall days when the sky is the deepest blue imaginable. The sun shone through the windows of St. John’s International Airport, illuminating the coffeeshop table where the four of us sat laughing until we had made a spectacle of ourselves.

“Okay, so… Jiggs Dinner? What exactly is that?”

“Well, you start off by putting all your vegetables in one pot…”

“Oh, so it’s like a stew.”

“No, it’s not like a stew. You put just one big chunk of salt meat in it, for flavoring… ”

“Oh, so it’s like a roast!”

“No, it’s not like a roast either.”

I laughed until my sides hurt as Sherry tried to explain to John exactly how to cook a “Jiggs Dinner”. To the curious onlooker, the sight must have been familiar enough… three “Newfie” friends trying to induct our American friend into the nuances of Newfoundland life.

“That actually sounds pretty good,” John admitted. “I would try that. But that other thing you mentioned, what was it again?”

“Scrunchions.” I supplied.

“Yeah, that. I wouldn’t touch that! Fried fat? Euuuugh.”

“And fishheads.” I added with a snicker. “Cod cheeks, to be precise.”

John roared with laughter. “Fried fat and fishheads? You guys are gross!!”

At that, we all broke into laughter.

Finally, I gasped for air and tried to get ahold of myself. The hysterical excitement of the weekend was ebbing away, leaving plenty of memories in its wake. After picking John up at this same airport on Friday night, life had become a whirlwind of welcoming meals, sightseeing, visiting, interviews, and concerts.

Oh yeah… maybe I should mention that our “visiting American friend” just happened to be John Schlitt, multiple Grammy- and Dove- award winner, international music artist, songwriter, and  lead singer for  the Christian rock group Petra.

John laughed when I introduced him like that on stage, but even though it’s quite an intimidating moniker, it doesn’t begin to describe the great guy he actually is. And I guess I really didn’t begin to understand how great, until that weekend.

You see, most folks get a “limited” view of John Schlitt. They see the TV interviews, buy the CD’s, attend the concerts, get an autograph at a meet-and-greet, and maybe get to chat for a while. But let me tell you, it’s not until you’ve crawled into a van with someone at 1 o’clock in the morning, hollered at their bed-and-breakfast window to wake them up, hauled their luggage (or as John put it, “holding the bags”), set up their sound equipment, stood with them in a fast-food lineup, took them sightseeing, and hiked cliffs and walked on the beach with them that you really get to see what they’re like. From the time the tall blond rockstar stepped off the plane and into our world, he became one of us.

Well, we tried to make a "Newfie" out of him!

“So, John, I hear you saw your first moose!” Those were my pastor’s first words to John. We had all met up at a restaurant the morning after John’s arrival for a “leadership lunch” which turned into a discussion of the previous night’s adventures. A one-hour drive from the airport turned into a dreamscape of black night, rolling white fog, and of course, the moose that dashed across the road in front of us.

“I sure did!” exclaimed John, still wide-eyed after his escapade. “Man, that was a big sucker! And I still say that it looked like a horse with… you know… funny-looking ears. I can’t believe people actually hunt those things here.”

As I pretended to scan the menu, I inwardly cracked up at John’s wonder of the island we live on. And of course, things were about to get even funnier.

An elderly gentleman who was on his way to a nearby wedding, finding with dismay that he was unable to tie his necktie properly, rushed into the same restaurant with hopes that someone there would be able to tie his tie. Noticing him going from table to table, one of our party recognized him and waved him over.

“This is John Schlitt from Nashville,” we introduced our rockstar. The “skipper” blinked at us and demanded, “Can ‘e tie a tie?” John, of course, proved to be an old hand and quickly knotted the tie correctly. Upon seeing this, another gentleman popped over and said, “My tie’s already done up, but can ‘e tie me tie the same way he done t’ other feller’s?” John acquiesced, although he later admitted, “I couldn’t understand one word they were saying!”

After the “Great Tie Caper”, we tried to settle down and finish our lunch. John munched his club sandwich and discussed American football vs. Canadian football with the men. Of course, he kept interrupting himself to tease me about my choice of lunch. Fish and chips are common enough fare… fish and mashed potatoes, apparently, are not. John tormented me about “Chips and mashed potatoes” for the rest of his weekend stay.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to Petra. John waved his fork in the air, punctuating his words as he explained to everyone that I was a “Pethead,” which means a die-hard Petra fan. (In John’s own words, “I love meeting Petheads! They’re so cool!”) During part of the conversation, John mentioned his solo album “Unfit for Swine.” “What year was that, Hannah?” he asked, turning to me. “1998.” I replied. Then I corrected myself. “No, I’m wrong. I’m wrong. It came out in ’96, one year after Shake, which was in ’95. I was thinking of God Fixation for some reason, that’s why I said ’98.” John dropped his fork and threw up his hands. “You see? You see?! She knows more about Petra than I do!” he complained good-naturedly. For the rest of the weekend, he referred to me as his “memory” and consulted me when he was unsure about the dates or obscure titles.

A much younger Uwimana Hannah with John... both of us fried after a concert!

One thing I learned about John that weekend is that he loves to laugh. He’s always teasing someone about something. He relates to absolutely everyone and gets along with kids and seniors alike. When he noticed that two elderly ladies looked very uncomfortable with some of his harder rock songs, he ran right down off the stage and hugged them in the middle of a song… to a chorus of “awwwwww”s from the rest of his audience. He calls everyone remotely younger than him “kiddo” and was immediately adopted by half our congregation. The girls in the youth group adored him and clamored for autographs and pictures. (Of course John, being the goof that he is, kept hauling me over and saying, “Hey girls, this is my “Pethead friend!”) I think everyone was shocked by how normal the “rockstar” actually is.

John takes time for a cuddle with his "littlest fan" Madison.

Then, of course, we went sightseeing. I’d been told by John’s booking agent that it wasn’t his practice to go “touring around” with his hosts… but after all, he’d never been to a province quite like ours either! He took everything in stride, reacting in typical wide-eyed amazement at our language, our sense of community, our history, our scenery, and our people. When we’d drop a tidbit of interesting information, he’d respond, “Really? That is so cool!” (Everything is “so cool” with John!)

John overlooking St. John's Harbour from the top of Signal Hill

One of our jaunts to us to Flatrock, a tiny historic village perched way up on the cliffs above the community of Freshwater. John was stunned at the sheer 800-foot drop down to the sparkling ocean below.

John at Flatrock

Before we left, he hollered to me, “Hold on kiddo!” and ran back for one more picture. “Don’t step backwards!” I yelled against the wind as he spread his arms and posed for one more photo, his hair flying in his face.

Neither of us realized, as I raised my camera to my face and captured him in time, that people all around the world would see that photograph.

A few months later, I received a copy of John’s newest album, the Greater Cause, in the mail. Hardly noticing the scrawling autograph on the front, I slowly opened the jewel case to reveal the same photo that I’d taken in Flatrock. And there, to one side, was the inscription, “Photography, Hannah --------“

Now, every time I pull out John’s CD, I marvel at the fact that people all around the world hold that photo in their hands… but what they don’t know are the hours of laughter and memories and poignant moments that prompted it.

So I chuckle to myself and lay down the CD case, and keep in my mind that anyone who’s ever visited Newfoundland gets it in their blood.

Yep, you’ll be back someday John. After all, you’re family! 

Here's John singing my favorite song, "The Cross Remains." He performed this one in Newfoundland when he came.